"Philipp Melanchthon's Early Life"



    The Lutheran Journal, Vol. 66, #2, 1997 - Erwin Weber


The year 1997 marked the 500th anniversary of Philipp Melanchthon's birth. Most scholars agree that his work stands second only to that of Martin Luther in his influence upon the German Reformation. Although Melanchthon's name appears on many street signs throughout Germany and northern Europe, his life and work are comparitively unknown. Melanchthon was a Reformer, a Humanist, and Luther's closest friend and collaborator.

This issue of the journal deals with Melanchthon's early life including his ancestral home in Bretten, located near Stuttgart, his studies at the Latin School in Pforzheim which included Greek and Hebrew, the study of which he continued at the Universities of Heidelberg and Tübingen. His craving for knowledge also led him to study mathematics, astronomy, and even medicine, after which he turned his attention to theology. Part 1 concludes with his call to the "Leucorea" in 1518, better known as the University of Wittenberg, where Luther had published his 95 Theses the year before. Leucorea is the Greek word for Wittenberg which means "White Mountain". This is a misnomer, for Wittenberg was settled by Dutch immigrants on a slight elevation of white sand in the swampy region of northern Germany. Apparently, to the early settlers from the flatlands of the Netherlands, the tiny hill of sand looked like a white mountain. Part 2 concentrates on Melanchthon's later life and concludes with his death and burial in Wittenberg.